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Firm wants to expand operations at treatment plant

September 28, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The president of a North Carolina company that turns waste oil into electricity announced at a Friday open house that the firm intends to expand its partnership with Washington County.

The expansion plan calls for leasing county land at the Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Complex in the Interstate 70/81 Industrial Park northeast of Williamsport, said Rich Ellman, president of Spirit Services Inc. The expansion would cost at least $1 million, Ellman said.

Before expanding, company and county officials are trying to determine which treated contaminants are in demand, Ellman said.

Ellman says he expects to break ground in six months. He wants construction to be finished less than a year.

The company could possibly treat nitrates, meaning farmers could benefit by having their animal waste treated at the facility, Ellman said.

Spirit Services started operating its equipment at the pretreatment plant eight weeks ago, allowing the county to treat oily wastes, Ellman said.

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Firms such as AC&T and Gerald Taylor & Co. Inc. in Williamsport bring their waste to the pretreatment plant, where oil is separated from waste and taken to a plant in Virginia where it will be burned to create electricity, officials said.

The public-private partnership between the county and Spirit has helped AC&T considerably, said Doug Grimm, an AC&T environmental manager.

The savings the petroleum distributor gets in trucking costs is passed onto AC&T's customers, Grimm said. Before, the company's oily waste was trucked to Pennsylvania and Delaware.

County officials are trying to get a rail line installed to the plant from a nearby spur to broaden its access to more customers, said Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook.

With monthly revenue as low as $4,000 in 1997, the pretreatment plant was expected to lose more than $8 million over five years, prompting the commissioners to consider closing it.

The pretreatment plant breaks down high-strength organic and other industrial waste before it enters the sewage treatment plant.

Monthly revenue rose to $25,000 after the county hired Greg Larsen to market the plant almost a year ago. County Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray said he expects monthly revenue to double this fiscal year.

The increase in revenue, coupled with a drop in maintenance costs, enabled the commissioners to cut the general fund subsidy of the plant from $830,000 last budget year to $282,000 this budget year, said Debra Bastian, county finance director.

The county has spent about $2.3 million in subsidies on the $9 million plant since it opened in 1994.

Snook said the current commissioners want to ensure the plant is self-supporting and then pay back the general fund, freeing up money for projects such as education, public safety, and parks and recreation.

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